Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi has witnessed many of Donald Trump's rallies and speeches, but the president's performance Tuesday night in Phoenix, Arizona—delivered as hundreds of protestors crowded the streets demanding "Mr. Hate" to leave their state—was the "craziest" yet.
"This Trump speech is like something out of a psychopathology textbook."
—Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
"Trump," Taibbi wrote, was in "full delusion-mode" throughout the evening, fuming to the delight of his supporters in the crowd about the media's focus on his defense of white supremacist violence, railing against states moving to take down Confederate statues, and accusing news outlets of "turning off live feeds because they're afraid of his words."
The president also floated the possibility of a government shutdown if Congress refuses to authorize funds for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, and claimed that former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio—who last month was found guilty of criminal contempt for ignoring a court order demanding that his department stop racially profiling Latinos—was "just doing his job."
"This Trump speech is like something out of a psychopathology textbook," Taibbi concluded.
That rambling, hostile, incoherent Trump rally speech is the weirdest thing I have ever seen in 30 years of studying American politics.
— Cynthia Boaz (@cynthiaboaz) August 23, 2017
Many reacted specifically to Trump's claim that those calling for the removal of Confederate monuments are "trying to take away our history and our heritage," and to his continued insistence that "both sides" were to blame for the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
"President Trump again chose to fan the flames of hate and division. His lack of moral credibility was on full display in Phoenix and his failing, pathetic attempts to revise history were another abdication of leadership," Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said in a reaction to the president's event. "When it comes to civil and human rights, we must all stand together against those seeking to divide us."
Said by the son of a man arrested at a KKK rally. This isn't a dog whistle, it's the whole dog show https://t.co/CApJcvva3C
— Charles Idelson (@cidelson) August 23, 2017
If there was any doubt, Trump is who we all knew he was. https://t.co/OIuFgH7wod
— Indivisible Guide (@IndivisibleTeam) August 23, 2017
Donald Trump is an unashamed, unabashed white supremacist. Saying otherwise is foolish. He embraces & empowers it now more than ever.
— Shaun King (@ShaunKing) August 23, 2017
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Journalists and civil libertarians also expressed alarm at Trump's continued demonization of the press, which he called "crooked" and "dishonest."
The New York Times summarized some of Trump's remarks and the raucous scene, which "rivaled the most sulfurous rallies of his presidential campaign":
Pointing repeatedly to the cameras in the middle of a cavernous convention center, Mr. Trump whipped the crowd into fevered chants of "CNN Sucks." Members of the audience shouted epithets at reporters, some demanding that the news media stop tormenting the president with questions about his ties to Russia.
Members of the media and activists were not surprised by Trump's remarks—or by the audience's gleeful reaction to them—but they noted that Trump's constant demonization of the press remains cause for serious concern, particularly following the Justice Department's indication that journalists may be a target of the administration's "war on leaks."
so the purpose of this rally is to declare war on journalism, got it
— Kate Aronoff (@KateAronoff) August 23, 2017
— Medea Benjamin (@medeabenjamin) August 23, 2017
Following the Phoenix event, Charles Chamberlain of Democracy for America wrote in an email to supporters Tuesday night that Trump's speech is an urgent reminder that "we can't let up the drumbeat of pressure now," particularly amid the "constant state of turmoil caused by this administration."
Noting the growing support for Trump's impeachment among the population and members of Congress, Chamberlain concluded: "Trump has proved he would rather tear this country apart than govern it."